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Big and clunky, awesome and funky – Skyrim poses a bit of a conundrum. Its sprawling size affords unparalleled immersion, but the game is hampered by performance and user interface issues. Its features definitely make it worth your time and money, but the mountainous road will be full of bumps along the way.
Skyrim is packed with features, some adapted or improved from the previous Elder Scrolls games, others completely new. Here’s a quick run-through of the most exciting features in the latest edition.
- Dragon Souls
In Skyrim, you don’t want dragon hides; you want dragon souls. Hide doesn’t go for much on the Skyrim black market, but a good soul, now that’s priceless. Slaying a dragon and absorbing its soul with unlock a ‘Dragon Shout’ – pretty much the most powerful of the skills in the game (there’s 20 in total). Of course you have to learn the shout first by finding the ‘Word Wall’ and assimilate it. This all sounds very complicated but it isn’t: you find a dragon protecting a Word Wall, you kill it, absorb its soul, read the wall – gain a kick-ass power. This is a novel and challenging way to gain access to some of the most powerful and fun skills in the game – a welcome edition.
- Finishing moves
Similar to Fallout 3’s V.A.T.S combat system, Skyrim has introduced finishing moves. When an enemy is low on health, a slow motion stylistic kill will be triggered automatically. Given the bland and clunky combat of the Oblivion installment, this is a welcome addition to the Elder Scrolls universe.
- Dual wielding
Possibly the best new feature in the game, dual wielding allows you to combine sword and shield, magic and melee, or if you’re feeling really creative: magic and magic. The combinations, which affect how your character plays, are only limited to your imagination and that’s the way we like it. The character builds are less rigid than Oblivion and you can chop and change between different styles of play, translating into less punishment for experimentation.
- Open ended
Skyrim is huge; it’s easily the biggest game you’ll ever play, and in this giant world the choices given to the player are endless. This is, quite simply, the most non-linear game available. Quests seem more like suggestions, and there are no penalties for taking 50 hours to complete one quest. Everything lies in wait for you to trigger the next step on your adventure.This open-endedness is a wonderful thing. For a game to entertain for dozens of hours with the player only doing side-quests and exploration is a testament to the world’s immersive nature.On top of the main quest – which can be completed in about nine hours without doing anything else – there are the guilds at your disposal: The Companions, Theives Guild, Mage’s Guild, and a personal favourite – the Dark Brotherhood – which all have their own quest lines, comparable to the main story in scale and quality.
Paint a picture
Skyrim is not faultless though. Have you ever wanted to paint that picture, or write that novel, but never had the time? Well now you will… during Skyrim’s loading screens. With a game that relies so heavily on immersion, the loading screens really hamper it by taking you out of the action for minutes at a time.
The PS3 version also boasts some lag and frame rate issues. The game also freezes when your save file is over six megabytes. A patch will most certainly fix this and so waiting a month before delving into the realm is recommended.
Not so Polished Presentation
Graphically, Skyrim is a mixed bag. The world can look amazing and you’ll find yourself staring at the stars and watching the rivers flow by. But every now and then you’ll see something that will give you a what-was-that moment.
The sound, however, is fantastic. All the non-player characters are voiced and that’s saying something given the game has over 60 000 lines of dialogue. The characters have accents and the quality of voice acting is really impressive. This attention to detail and care really helps engross the player in the world.
The menu-system and user interface is what really brings Skyrim down a notch in quality. The interface can be pretty (constellations mark your skill trees) but it is useless. It is difficult to navigate and get the information you need; there is just too much space on the screen not being utilized. The equipment menus are just as bad: there are no visual representations for anything, and it’s all lists.
The maps are done badly too, they could use a colour-coded scheme at the very least, or clear paths to let you know where you are. The menus and user interface appear rushed, slapped on. Without a doubt the PC modding community are on the job, but unfortunately for console gamers, they’ll have to hope a patch or DLC corrects this.
The elephant in the room
Skyrim is a great game, a fantastic one even. It will immerse you like no other game on the market and it will entertain you for hours beyond comprehension. Yes it has its fair share of bugs, but no game this size would be perfect upon release. With some patches and DLC, Skyrim will be the game it is meant to be – leaving the fact that you don’t have your copy yet as the only elephant in the room.
Who it’s for:
- Everyone (Available on PS3, XBOX 360, PC)
- Fans of time wasting
What we like:
- Unmatched immersion
- Living, breathing world
What we don’t like:
- Obnoxiously long loading screens
- Various glitches and bugs